Older Workers Targeted in IGM Buyout Offer

The-inquirer-doors-front-view-of-building

Interstate General Media — the parent company of Philly.com, Inquirer, and Daily News — is seeking to cut costs by eliminating some of the company’s longest-tenured workers.

IGM employees received a memo Wednesday afternoon from Howard Gensler and Bill Ross — president and director, respectively, of the Newspaper Guild that represents them in collective bargaining — informing them of the buyouts, and asserting that layoffs may be necessary if the company doesn’t reach its cost-cutting goals through volunteer departures.

The target of the buyout efforts: Employees who have stuck with IGM and its parent companies the longest.
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The Inquirer Endorses Nobody for Governor

Philanthropist H.G. "Gerry" Lenfest speak at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

Philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest speaks at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

And in the 2014 Pennsylvania governor’s race, the Philadelphia Inquirer endorses … nobody. Absolutely nobody.

Readers on Sunday were instead treated to a list comparing and contrasting the major positions of Gov. Tom Corbett and challenger Tom Wolf — something that mostly could and should run in the paper’s news pages — but without any kind of weigh-the-facts-and-make-a-recommendation conclusion at the end of it that you’d expect from the op-ed page of the region’s biggest news operation. (A similar grid ran in Friday’s Daily News.) Instead, we got a column from owner/publisher Gerry Lenfest explaining the effort as a kind of high-minded bit of innovation.

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(UPDATE) Gerry Lenfest Is Tom Corbett’s Fifth-Biggest Donor

Philanthropist H.G. "Gerry" Lenfest speak at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

Philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest speak at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

[Update 6 p.m.] Interstate General Media, the company that owns the papers and Philly.com, sends along a statement saying the donations are old news:

In February 2014, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Magazine both reported on the nature of Mr. Lenfest’s $250,000 donation to Governor Corbett’s reelection campaign. The donation was directly related to the governor’s approval of a $30 million grant for the proposed Museum of the American Revolution.

In the Feb. 4 Inquirer article, headlined “Lenfest second largest individual donor to Corbett”, Mr. Lenfest made the following statements regarding his donation in an interview:

“I greatly appreciated that support from the Commonwealth,” Lenfest said. He said he was “even more appreciative of what Gov. Corbett did” because Lenfest had supported Democrat Dan Onorato for governor in 2010.*

“He (Corbett) saw the museum as something worthy of support. . . . It wasn’t a quid pro quo because he didn’t know that I’d give to him when he approved the RCAP grant,” Lenfest said.*

It should be noted that Mr. Lenfest’s political contributions to the governor’s campaign were made prior to becoming sole owner and publisher of Interstate General Media’s publications. Mr. Lenfest stands by The Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com’s fair and balanced coverage of the gubernatorial campaign.

[Original] Gerry Lenfest, publisher of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com, is one of the biggest cash donors to the re-election campaign of Gov. Tom Corbett, an Associated Press analysis reveals.

Lenfest has given $252,000 to Corbett’s campaign, making him the Republican’s fifth-biggest donor, AP reported.
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Gerry Lenfest Makes It Official: He’s the Publisher

Philanthropist H.G. "Gerry" Lenfest speak at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

Philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest speaks at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

Gerry Lenfest confirmed this morning that he will be the permanent publisher of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com — but added that he still intends to hire a senior executive to oversee the “day-to-day” operations of Interstate General Media, the company that owns the three news outlets.

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Today’s Inky masthead.

“Since the sale of the company, I’ve held the title of interim publisher as I took a deeper dive into the business,” he said in a statement emailed to journalists. “After more than two months in that role, I wanted to make the title permanent. I’m enjoying this role as the company continues to make big strides in building a winning culture by assembling a great team of journalists and executives.

He added: “With all this said, I remain committed to recruiting another senior executive to lead day-to-day operations, and I’ve been actively working to do so.”

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Lenfest to Inquirer, Daily News Reporters: “Work Hard But Rest Easy”

Leaders of the Newspaper Guild, the union that represents the journalists of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com, had their first formal meeting with new owner Gerry Lenfest on Tuesday. Some developments:

• Lenfest told the journalists he is “committed” to continuing with two papers, meaning the perpetually in danger Daily News can rest easy for the moment.

• He’s considering keeping Philly.com as its own, independent entity with its own identity.

• He expects to have a publisher in place within three months.

• He does not expect to seek any wage cuts from journalists, and may offer a contract longer than two years during the next round of negotiations.

• He buried the hatchet with Bill Ross, the guild’s executive director. The two famously feuded by letter during the Inky’s ownership crisis.

A full memo from the Guild regarding the meeting, after the jump:

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Should Philly’s Newspapers Operate as Charity Cases?

Philanthropist H.G. "Gerry" Lenfest speak at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

Philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest speak at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

Gerry Lenfest has spent much of the last decade giving his fortune away for worthy causes. So maybe it’s no surprise that when he finally sealed his complete ownership of Interstate General Media this week, Lenfest ended up sounding like Philly’s major newspapers were another one of his philanthropic enterprises

“I’ve given a lot of money away,” he told the Daily News. “But I can’t think of any cause that we support that’s more important than the support of the newspapers.”

Lenfest’s actions also matched the look of a man who isn’t anticipating great profit. He’s setting up a corporation that will continue to oversee the papers “just in case I kick the bucket,” and says he’ll create a board of directors composed of five to seven community leaders. That sounds more like the governance of a trust than a multi-million-dollar business.

All of which raises the question: Why not just follow these ideas to their natural conclusion and formally turn the Inquirer and Daily News into non-profit enterprises?

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Drew Katz Finalizes IGM Shares Sale to Gerry Lenfest

Drew Katz, left, son of Lewis Katz, right, walk with philanthropist H.G. "Gerry" Lenfest to a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Lenfest and businessman Lewis Katz are taking over Philadelphia's two largest newspapers with an $88 million auction bid. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Drew Katz, left, son of Lewis Katz, right, walk with philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest to a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Lenfest and businessman Lewis Katz are taking over Philadelphia’s two largest newspapers with an $88 million auction bid. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

It’s final. Drew Katz has sold his shares in Interstate General Media to Gerry Lenfest. And he affirmed Lenfest’s leadership of the company that owns the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com on his way out.

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The Last Days of the Philadelphia Inquirer?

Philanthropist H.G. "Gerry" Lenfest speak at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

Philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest speak at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27th, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

Let’s stipulate many things about Gerry Lenfest. That he’s a good man. A boon to the community. Somebody whose philanthropy has enriched this city beyond the usual ways of measuring. Philadelphia is better, much better, for his devotion to us.

But he is not the man to lead the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com into the future — which is the plan, now that the auction he and Lewis Katz won two weeks ago has ended with Wednesday’s official closing, putting the organizations into his hands. His leadership may, in fact, signal the effective demise of those publications.

Let’s be blunt about the reasons why.

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Drew Katz to Sell Interest in Inquirer, Daily News

Drew Katz, left, son of Lewis Katz, right, walk with philanthropist H.G. "Gerry" Lenfest to a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Lenfest and businessman Lewis Katz are taking over Philadelphia's two largest newspapers with an $88 million auction bid. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Drew Katz, left, son of Lewis Katz, right, walks with philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest to a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia.  (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Drew Katz is selling his interest in Interstate General Media, the company that his late father Lewis Katz won at auction just two weeks ago after a furious months-long fight over the ownership of Philadelphia’s major newspapers. The announcement Tuesday night appears to leave Gerry Lenfest, Lewis Katz’s partner in the bidding, the sole owner of those newspapers.

“Because of the turmoil of the last 10 days, I have made a decision that it would be in the best interests of the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com for me to sell my interest in the company,” Drew Katz said in an email Tuesday night. “I believe strongly that the organization would be in excellent hands under the ownership of Gerry Lenfest now and in the years to come.”

The announcement came hours after a report at BigTrial.net that Drew Katz had fallen out with Lenfest in the days since his father’s death, allegedly feeling he’d been elbowed out of decisions concerning the future of the papers by the older man — and resenting, reportedly, that Lenfest hadn’t offered any personal condolences about Lewis Katz’s death in a plane crash a week after the bidding concluded.

Drew Katz denied he’d had any falling-out with Lenfest.

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